It was late and he was awake, up with the sheep, doing his job, tending. Most people were in bed, warm, safe and asleep. But he didn’t mind his hours. Except for the occasional ruffian or wild animal, it was peaceful, quiet. He looked at the sky, so vast, and pondered the questions of existence. His friends would laugh if they knew he contemplated such mysteries. They already considered him a little odd. They saw no need to waste time with such thoughts. Life was simple. Do your job, take care of the sheep. If you look for something more you will be disappointed.
He sighed as he forced his attention back to the flock. He quickly counted them and noted their easy breathing. All was well.
Then he heard something, melodious humming, all around him, growing and growing. It was coming from the sky and reverberating back from the hills. He knew he wasn’t imagining it because the sheep were waking up and looking to the skies. He grabbed his staff and looked toward the other shepherds. They were up too, staffs in hand, ready for combat and looking heavenward.
A light appeared, bright and blinding. As his eyes adjusted he could not believe what he saw—a form in the heavens, like a man, but not a man. It was huge and terrifying. Could it be an angel? He realized he had not moved from his spot and was unable to move. He was not one to scare easily, but the sight had him frozen, paralyzed by fear.
Then the being spoke. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (v. 10). The celestial speaker had the shepherd’s attention. What could be so important that God sent such a messenger to deliver the news? The angel continued, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (vv. 11-12).
The Messiah was here, in Bethlehem? The news was astonishing. Then hundreds and hundreds of glowing beings appeared in the sky, praising God, their voices joyous and beautiful: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (v. 14). He was filled with peace, hope and expectation. And then the angels disappeared, ascending up into the heavens.
He looked around, bewildered. But it was real. The other shepherds witnessed it too. His initial shock turned to awe, then excitement and jubilation. The shepherds went into Bethlehem to find the child. They found the baby and his parents, housed in a stable, the infant sleeping in the manger. It was true! They spread the good news to anyone who would listen. Such a night. Such a magnificent gift from God, this small baby, the Christ. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (v. 20). It was amazing, and God entrusted his message to them, to him, a shepherd watching his flock by night.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. …He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace” (Micah 5:2, 4-5).
Excerpted from “Ordinary Encounters with Extraordinary Jesus” Copyright 2015 Sara Nelson O’Brien.